By: Maria Couto
For incoming first-years, the requirement to enrol in specific courses includes the commitment to follow through with all of the required readings—a commitment that can truly make or break a class.
As a fourth-year English student, I’ve been required to read a hefty pile of books over the years. However, only a few have truly stuck with me, even after the course was over.
These top five works are not only entertaining and important reads, but made the classes that assigned them seem inviting, inclusive and radical.
Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir by Kai Cheng Thom
This fantastical and surrealist novel chronicles the life of an unnamed trans woman and the other femmes she meets along the way. While many trans memoirs have been written about the nitty gritty details of transition, Thom subverts this notion through an unreliable narrator who only reveals as much (or as little) as she wants her readers to know. — Featured in ENG 941 (Gender and Sex in Literature and Culture)
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
The story follows an unnamed Black narrator in the 1950s, moving from present to past to reveal how and why he ends up underground. This novel depicts not only the implicit racism the narrator faces, but unravels the sense of “invisibility” he experiences as a Black man in a predominantly white society. — Featured in ENG 417 (Special Topics in American Literatures)
Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese
This novel presents the lives and friendship of four people experiencing homelessness as they go from navigating life unhoused to living a life of luxury upon finding a winning lottery ticket and splitting the cash. This novel depicts the raw mistreatment and dehumanization of the homeless community and gives insight into the events which led up to their situations. — Featured in ENG 701 (Canadian Literatures)
Prospero’s Daughter by Elizabeth Nunez
As an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, this novel assists in dismantling the experiences of colonialism and discrimination that Caliban faces in the original story. In this version, justice is served and the characters get the endings they actually deserved. — Featured in ENG 110 (Literatures Across Borders)
Sex and Disability edited by Robert McRuer and Anna Mollow
This book pieces together essays by disabled authors who share their experiences with systemic ableism, racism and homophobia. This is a devastating compilation of what’s taken from people when disabilities are associated with infantilism and undesirability. — Featured in DST 605 (Sexuality, Desire and Disability)